In News by Just Like Family / April 11, 2023
If you have a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia — or you’re looking for ways to make more brain-healthy choices in your own life — it may be helpful to familiarize yourself with new research into long-term brain health.
While some risk factors like age and genetics aren’t within our control, recent studies are helping us better understand how certain dementia risk factors can be minimized. Here’s a look at four of the most important.
- The power of diet
A growing body of evidence suggests that following a Mediterranean diet or MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) may help protect us against cognitive decline and dementia. Such diets recommend limiting processed foods, meat, sweets and dairy, and instead focussing on fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, olive oil and fish. Simple dietary modifications — adding more of these recommended foods, eating a variety of foods in many different colours, choosing appropriate portion sizes, and drinking plenty of water — can actually reduce your risk of dementia or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease as you age.
- Keep on keeping active
You’ve likely heard that people who exercise regularly are less likely to develop heart disease, stroke and diabetes, all risks which are associated with dementia. But keeping physically active doesn’t necessarily have to mean a huge change to your routine. Starting small — setting achievable goals and sticking to them — can have real, brain-healthy benefits. Rather than driving, consider a walk or stroll to do your errands, or take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever you’re able. Try to find active activities that you enjoy, like walking, swimming, dancing, gentle yoga, etc., and consider doing them alongside a friend or activity partner. That way, you’re more likely to continue going, while also gaining the brain-healthy benefits of socializing.
- The importance of relationships
A person’s social bonds are an incredibly important part of them staying mentally connected: a wealth of research shows that regularly interacting with others can help reduce the risk of developing dementia. If your loved one is a dementia sufferer, your emotional communication with them is hugely important in managing their symptoms and overall health. This connection can take many forms, whether it’s spending time together in person (doing memory-triggering traditions, playing brain-challenging games together), talking on the phone, chatting online via email or social media, or even writing them letters.
- Keep an eye on stress levels, and seek out stress relief
Experiencing stress is an unavoidable part of life, and if you or your loved one are facing some form of dementia, of course there will be days when stress deepens or feels overwhelming. But when it persists over time, stress can actually cause vascular changes and chemical imbalances in the body: changes that are damaging to the brain and other cells. It’s important to watch for the signs of chronic stress, recognizing physical symptoms like headaches, fatigue and insomnia, and behavioural ones like fidgeting, overeating, or substance dependence.
By managing or lowering stress levels, you’re taking steps to improve brain health and reduce the risk of dementia. You or your loved one might find solace in therapy, meditation, deep breathing, exercise, or massage.
Don’t be afraid or ashamed to try different stress-reducing approaches to find those that work best. And always seek out support when you need it — caring for a dementia sufferer truly does take a village, and when you have others to help and support you, it can make a world of difference.
How Just Like Family can help
Our empathetic, highly trained Just Like Family team members have helped many families of Alzheimer’s patients and other dementia sufferers. If you are wanting to grow your support system, we can provide your loved one with dementia management techniques and many other forms of expert, reliable care. Please know you can get in touch at any time: we’re always ready to start a friendly conversation, share information, and help you consider your options.
NOTE: These tips are intended for informational purposes only and not intended as medical advice. We encourage readers to expand their knowledge on this topic for accuracy and completeness.
“Mediterranean and MIND diets reduced signs of Alzheimer’s in brain tissue, study finds”
“Brain-healthy tips to reduce your risk of dementia”